“Science is like culture – it should be easily available to everyone”Photo by Ute Karstens, Lund University. CC 4.0 SAName: Dr. Maggie Hellström
Position: Data management specialist working for ICOS Carbon Portal - the data center of the European research infrastructure ICOS (https://icos-ri.eu/)
Institution: Lund University, Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, and the ICOS Carbon Portal
ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4154-2610
An interview with Dr. Maggie Hellström on 21 June 2017
Oh, many! One example in point comes from my current field of environmental and climate research. When we make measurements of what is going on in an ecosystem or in the atmosphere, the data we collect is a snapshot of what the real world is like at a given point in time. There is no way to reproduce the observation – unless we build a time machine! Because environmental data is so important on a global scale, it is extremely important that we share the data with everyone who can make use of it to create a better understanding of climate change.
I work with the Carbon Portal, which is the data center of a European research infrastructure called ICOS – Integrated Carbon Observation System. ICOS’s mission is to collect high-quality observational data on gases like carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, and make these available to scientists working to understand the greenhouse gas balance of Europe and its adjacent regions. The Carbon Portal is the “one stop shop” for ICOS data, and we are, among many things, responsible for a website where users can discover, visualise and download data sets – all available under Creative Commons 4.0 BY license.
Two things, I think. First the fact that researchers aren’t very good at collecting comprehensive metadata about their data sets and/or making these available. Here something really needs to happen, both at the level of individual scientists and in the data curation organisations. After all, data that are not properly described and annotated are pretty much impossible for anyone else to use – and, in fact, even the people who collected the data cannot often remember all the necessary information after some time has passed! And then, secondly, I believe much more has to be done about linking data – with other data, with their metadata, with the creators and research papers, and so on. Here, I see a major role for persistent identifiers, as highlighted, for example, by the “global digital object cloud” concept launched by the Research Data Alliance data fabric interest group. As we move into the era of Open Science clouds, we really need standardised and comprehensive linking to make sure that both humans and machines can efficiently and reliably navigate the ocean of exponentially growing amounts of data.
In addition to what I just said, I really want to see academia and science funders starting to give proper credit to researchers who are sharing their data, together with rich metadata that makes it easy for others to use. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that properly, and it should result not only in a “warm and fuzzy feeling” for having done the right thing, but also be awarded by recognisable professional merit. Connected to this, statistics of data usage by others – in analogy to citations of papers – should be a recognized part of a researcher’s CV.
Who, or what project or service, inspires you and makes you optimistic about the future of Open Science?
I’m really inspired by organisations and groups like the Research Data Alliance, FORCE11, SPARC and SCHOLIX, to name just a few. They are not only bringing together a lot of experts to work on policies and recommendations on important topics, but they also make a great effort to communicate their findings to researchers in a way that makes it easy to adopt and implement them. I feel that with this guiding wind at our backs, we can build up this new world of Open Science!
Reproducibility and quality control of already-performed science will suffer, even more than now, and obviously a lot of money will continue to be spent on research projects that are duplicating efforts already done. Increasingly, society in general and many politicians are loudly calling for cutting science funding because they think there is a lot of waste and redundancy, or because they think end-users should be paying to get access to data. As researchers supporting Open Science and Open Access, we need to intensify our efforts to reach out and influence public opinion.
Oh, simply wonderful! Joking aside, I think that having open access to data, including metadata and the linkages I mentioned earlier, will drive a rapid development of interdisciplinary projects – both in research and in business. We will also see a much more efficient use of information and computational resources that becomes possible when the design of workflows for data harvesting and processing can be decoupled from specific storage and repository technologies, and instead is able to focus on creating new and exciting results.
Copyright: Maria Johnsson and Monica Lassi, Lund University. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence.
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